A peek inside my photshoot with Aneta Mak

Any woman with an ounce of vanity will be nervous before a photo shoot for her website profile photos, but I ended up having the best photo session, thanks to Aneta Mak, who simply allowed me to be myself in front of her camera.

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I love photography and have folders and folders of magazine editorials, creating a background for mood-boards and a source of endless inspiration, so when I saw Aneta’s photos on Twitter, I delved into her blog. Aneta specialises in wedding & lifestyle photography, in fact she is one of UK’s top ones in that niche and every time we meet for a catch-up I marvel at how this Tinkerbell of a woman can be incredibly friendly, insightful, focussed, generous with her advice and professional in equal measure.

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A few weeks ago Aneta popped round to my house and armed with steaming mugs of coffee we started planning, with Aneta looking at best places to shoot, examining the light and asking me to tell her what I wanted to achieve with my photos. For me the best photos are the natural ones, where you are the best version of yourself looks wise but more importantly, the real you shines through the lens of photographer. I can try to strike a pose ( after all, a woman can do and achieve anything, if she puts her mind to it and works tremendously hard ) but I am a journalist and blogger who prefers her writing to do the talking ( even though being a woman has plenty of its charms ).

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Aneta gave me lots of pointers, casually observing that we will have fun, while we work. She told me to approach our upcoming photoshoot with the view of hanging out with a friend, drinking coffee, trying on cool clothes. In terms of prep, I narrowed down the looks that work well for me, natural & timeless ( think Katherine Hooker jacket, Banjo & Matilda sweaters, Victoria Beckham jeans, Coach bag in collaborating with James Nares, Hermes trilby ) – Aneta’s actual words were ‘just be ready with the make-up that makes you feel great, happy & confident, sprinkled with just a teeny bit extra glam than usual”.  ( I was lucky to get a treat courtesy of Home House, as my hair was blow-dried the day before the photoshoot – minus one headache for me, as unlike a supermodel, I had no one to prep me but myself ).

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On the morning of our photo shoot ( apart from a spilled bottle of Armani’s liquid fabric that went everywhere in my bathroom, my prep went smoothly – and I actually viewed the bathroom clean-up as an extra fitness before the shoot – it certainly made me look more flushed & ready to face the task at hand ). I laid out the outfits on my bed, so they were ready for Aneta’s attention-and believe me, she doesn’t miss anything, her attention even to the miniscule detail is riveting. I also compiled a mood-board of images, in order to give Aneta a more accurate direction of what I wanted to achieve. Until now I had images of me on my website that were taken during my travels and many of my friends & colleagues who work in fashion, beauty or run their own businesses ( you know who you are and I say daily prayers to have such a wise, funny and supportive council, who offer constructive criticism in order to make me & my website better ) again and again told me that I needed to have ‘professional images’ taken, while I continued to mull where to start, as most often than not I am the one who photographs friends and family, rather than nudging myself forward to be in the shot.

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The day of the photoshoot was sunny to start with, with an odd rain drizzle, so Aneta directed me first inside, telling me which way to pose to get my best angles. It was so much fun, just talking to her, pausing, holding the poses and trying to remember to keep a perfect pose when prompted ( think of a string attached to the top of your head and pulling yourself upward, relax your shoulders, tuck your pelvic bone in – do all that and will look almost swan like .) In between outfit changes I actually turned the camera ( this time my own ) on Aneta, while asking her about the specifics of her job, her cameras and what makes a perfect picture.

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Aneta also put me through my paces outside as well, but with my Louboutins refusing to cooperate and gleefully sinking into the turf or between the bricks, I silently thanked Tory’s wedges for being chicly stoic in the face of earthy elements.

After fours hours that flew by, hundreds of shots and many camera rolls – Aneta shoots films and digital – the photoshoot came to an end and I can honestly say it’s been the most fascinating hours, which made me appreciate how unglamorous modelling is and how time-consuming the capturing of a perfect moment can be. I can’t wait to see the final results and share them on my website but first and foremost I now love photographers and photography even more. The attention to detail, the instructions, taking even the tiniest details into account and most importantly, reading the person correctly and making them feel at ease-so many components for a perfect moment in time. Aneta, I am an even bigger fan of your now !  

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For information about Aneta, examples of her work, as well as her blog, go to here website here

Lorna Jane sport fashion event at Psycle

Whether you are a feminist or not, a smart modern woman pays attention to what she wears when she works out, as it not only makes her feel better, but helps her perform better as well. Lorna Jane has been sport’s fashionistas secret in Australia for many years but since the end of last year the brand has landed on the British shores and is planting firmly its bright flagpoles in the capital.

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On a day when the weather has been racking havoc on people, with sun being followed by icicle downpours and gales and when I felt like curling up on the sofa under a wool blanket instead of venturing out, Lorna Jane hosted its Spring collection presentation at the new fitness place called Psycle just off Oxford street. If you gazed in from the darkness outside, you would have seen lots of happy faces, explosion of fluoro colours and multiple white cycling shoes standing to attention. Psycle and Lorna Jane partnership was beckoning you in, with Psycle actually being Lorna Jane’s first UK retail stockist, as well as the soon to be coolest spinning place in London.

Lorna Jane’s latest collection fuses contemporary prints and bold colours ( lemon, tangerine, fluoro pink, purple-you name it, she’s got it !) with smart technical fabrics and performance-led design that will take you from the serenity of a yoga class to high impact aerobics or sweat dripping spin class ( come to Psycle for that, they are perfect ! ).   

Lorna Jane has the sense of well-being and female empowerment at the core of her brand & I highly recommend getting your hands on her book ‘More of the fit woman’s secrets’ that makes for an uplifting reading and visuals that inspire.

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Her pieces are understated but always elegant and cool, appealing to both a younger generation of women, as well as women in their 30s or 40s. There is always the breezy brightness that draws your eye and makes you want to try her clothes on. The clothes are cut to fit the body but fabrics have stretch so they don’t cling in the places you don’t want it to.

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 Check out the Tropicana bra ( one of the star pieces of the spring collection for the obvious reason but it also offers medium support which is adequate for most workouts ) if you are bored with your classic sports bra colour. It is made from LJ Excel Classic fabric which allows your skin to breathe, while drawing sweat away from the body. You also have the padding for extra support and shape, which is easily removed if you are more voluptuous.

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Or if you have more conservative tastes, you can choose your running or yoga clothes from those whites and
vivid blues.
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 or hot pinks and greys, as well as black leggings :
 
 
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While some of the styles might seem a little too young, in real life they look good on any woman who cares about her appearance and wants her workout gear to compliment her style. It comes down to the design detailing that make you feel feminine, yet focussed when you are working our at home, in the gym or outside.
 
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Another of Lorna Jane’s stand out traits is the sense of humour that comes across from the slogans that she choses to emboss on her tank tops. There is honesty in the fact that in order to look good, one has to work hard at it, as life gathers pace and years whizz by. It’s always nice to be reminded that laughter makes life brighter and extends our life span by flooding our bodies with endorphins.
 
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Psycle will carry about eight to ten of Lorna Jane styles, so you can browse before or after workout or ask staff for recommendations.
 
Now, to Psycle. It will officially open its doors on February 24th ( one of its


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Xmas gift ideas: the gift of shoe giving from TOMs + Tabitha Simmons

I think that most of you will agree that Christmas is the time for giving-a smile, a hug, a card, a present to show the people who you care about that they mean a great deal to you. But what if you could buy a pair of shoes ( for yourself or for a friend ) and a new pair of shoes will be given to a child in need? That’s the idea behind a beautiful brand called TOMs.

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Blake Mycoskie, a Texas native, founded TOMs in 2006, having seen the consequences of kids not being able to afford shoes. He came up with the idea of One for One and since the brand’s launch it has given over 10 million pairs of shoes to children who desperately need them ( alongside it Blake also launched TOMs eyewear which helps to save and restore the sight  for people in need, particularly those who leave at high altitudes and where the lower oxygen concentration makes eye problems deteriorate much quicker ). Blake’s idea was to create a business that was sustainable  and not reliant on private donations and he continues to approach his business with creativity and passion.

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Tabitha Simmons is a CFDA award-winning footwear designer & stylist who is on every fashionista’s lips because her shoes are cooly sophisticated and comfortable to boot. Why am I telling you all this? Well, Toms and Tabitha put their creative heads together and produced truly unique shoes, along the esthetic of both brands. You can choose from a cricket stripe women’s classics in pink or blue ( £90 ) or cricket stripe women’s desert wedges in red or blue ( £110 ) or a TOMs+ first, thanks to Tabitha-kid’s shoes – choose from a tiny classics in pink or blue cricket stripe with a velcro band for ease of putting them on/off ( £26 ) or youth laced cordones that even a grumpy teen will appreciate ( £32 ).

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Considering that Tabitha’s shoes normally retail at the £500 upwards price point, those shoes will be a bargain and yet buying a pair of shoes for yourself on this occasion will give you a double satisfaction and knowledge that your purchase will also help a child get a pair of shoes at the time of the year where the lack of footwear can be deadly.

Your shoes ( my wedges are elevatingly comfortable and look so elegant, I ache for warmer weather & a chance to take them out ) will arrive in a sturdy paper box with the shoe bag and a cool sticker that will also tell you about five ways in which you can get engaged with TOMs, for example go barefoot on One Day Without Shoes. When I saw this I instantly thought about getting chided by a girl who does my pedicure in the winter for not bringing my flip-flops and marching out with my feet wrapped in cling film and UGGs. Imagine that there are plenty of people around the world who can’t afford shoes or whose shoes are so worn they might as well be walking barefoot in freezing temperatures or in places where walking barefoot is painful and dangerous.

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With the fun of festivities and the year drawing to a close, it is always nice to pause and appreciate what you have-a roof over your head, clean water, home comforts and people[...] read more

Charli Cohen-a sportswear designer to know & to support

Charli Cohen is a petit blonde power force to be reckoned with, even though she is only 23. We have met in the beginning of the year for a chat and after an hour spent in her company I walked away with a wonderful sense of marvel at how someone so young can have such a mature head on her shoulders when it comes to running her life and her business.

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For Charli fashion was always the plan, somehow deep inside she knew she was destined to work within it, but her fitness aspirations kicked in later, when she was in her teens, so by the time Charli was going to Kingston University, she knew that both were very important to her. Even at that tender age she knew that she needed to have proper qualifications to be taken seriously. By the time Graduation Week has arrived Charli’s esthetic was formed and even though she didn’t win the top award, she got the attention of the fashion press and Lycra offered to sponsor her with materials.

With Lycra’s mentoring as well, Charli was able to start her own sportswear label sooner that she expected and her The Vis Collection was previewed in July of this year. With meticulous research into fabrics and its qualities, as well as running a business and label’s infrastructure, no obstacle was going to get in the way of Charli’s determination ( Spring/Summer Collection is due to be presented in February 2014). Her premium, UK-made, technical sportswear collection bridges the gap between high-performance function and high-end fashion. As well as running her own business, Charli also writes her own blog, blogs for Huffington Post and offers nutritional and fitness consultancy to both men (about 30%) and women (70%) ( her initial client base started from the US) via e-mail and Skype. Charli looks at her customer’s needs realistically and takes into account their lifestyle and needs. Not bad for someone who is still very young.

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It is Charli’s conscious choice to manufacture her luxe sportswear line in the UK (the factory that manufactures Charli’s pieces also works with established British designers like Erdem and Victoria Beckham) while her fabrics, which are technical polyamide, are sourced from Italy. They are anti-bacterial, they draw sweat away from the body and they don’t loose colour as you wash them) and to run a truly British brand. There are 12 designs in the current collection, with some coming in two colour combinations. You can choose from a parka, a hooded jacket, a shorter jacket version, sweatshirts, two types of leggings, an oversized t-shirt, a bra, tank tops, track pants and long-sleeved tops.

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I have seen the presentation of Charli’s collection at the intimate yet very modern gym The Library in July and for the first time I actually saw sportswear pieces that didn’t ride up as the girls (models) did various sports demonstration with the in-house gym instructor. From doing yoga to boxing Charli’s pieces stayed put and the girls looked luxuriously glamorous even when they broke sweat on their faces.

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The fabrics are tactile, epitomising the luxury sportswear end of the market, highly practical and all of the items, even the parka, are machine washable. The fabrics that Charli chooses for her designs are made from the so-called ‘brushed’ fabrics, so they feel comfortable and ‘lived in’ thus you will feel equally at home in them when you workout or do a school run.

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It was a conscious choice for Charli to make her first collection more commercial than her graduate one. When I asked her what inspired this collection, she told me that it was inspired by people and their movement during their training. She paid attention where gussets and seams were for ease of movement, she researched to the minor detail how to put panels in so they are ‘color blocking’ in a flattering way and she zeroes on the muscles shapes and paneling in order to design pieces that would have a slimming effect.

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With all of the above said, don’t think for a minute that it has been an easy road so far. Charli travels to London all the time, presenting her collection, raising her profile via the social media and working on various creative collaborations. Her feet don’t seem to touch the ground and yet I have never seen her moan or complain about the difficulties along the way. Being a young designer in particular isn’t easy, in the market that is already saturated and very competitive (and while there is plenty of press interest already, when it comes to fashion and stockists, it is almost unheard of to be offered a concession until you present at least your third collection) and for now Charli hasn’t got a place to showcase her collection, so brave and daring as she is, she bit the bullet and launched herself into the


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New collection from Les Foulards de Juju

As sunny skies gave way to greyness and dampness, we all started to look for not just beauty but comfort in our clothes, so when I got an invitation to Les Foulards de Juju trunk show, I grabbed my umbrella and dashed out of the door with a wide smile on my face.

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Julie-Anne Dorff, an executive and jewellery editor of Harper’s Bazaar UK, might have an intimidating job title but in real life she is just a beautiful woman with an engaging smile who is following her own creative path. She clearly relishes an opportunity to express her own innate sense of style through the fabrics that she collects, in rare moments away from her day job and being a wife and a mother of three.

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The new collection from Les Foulards de Juju was inspired by femininity mixed with the boy meets girl undercurrents, as well as opulent jewels. When Julie-Anne showed me her moodboard, I realised that some of the images were already familiar to me from the pages of the magazines that we both enjoy reading, thus drawing me even closer to the stories behind the latest collection.

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Mixed with the images of Julie-Anne’s two daughters, one still a baby,

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the other slowly turning into a beautiful young lady, they created a mood board that was beautiful, yet in some ways understated.

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Mixing Prince of Wales checks, emerald greens, plaids, paisley, peacocks, a Liberty print and a beautiful purple floral fabric, the scarves, neckerchiefs and shawls encapsulate Julie-Anne’s own brief’ of ‘simple clothes, rich lines’ and somehow make me think of Spanish and Italian Ladies going out for dinner with scarves casually draped over their shoulders or tied around their necks or heads.

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The collection itself comprises two silk paisley scarves cut at a bias, a Libery Hello Kitty print that any modern little girl will fall in love with instantly,

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Les Foulards de Juju: interview with the founder Julie-Anne Dorff

It all started with a Vogue profile and a picture of a beautiful woman, surrounded by her three children, talking about the complexities of balancing work and motherhood. The name Les Foulards de Juju also caught my eye and piqued my curiosity about the brand and its founder Julie-Anne Dorff.

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We exchanged e-mails and tried to organise a meeting, but in the meantime Julie-Anne kindly sent me some scarves to try on and to photograph. Imagine paisley scarves – cosy, unusual, with no annoying label tags. They come in different sizes, from small square ones that little girls love ( men can wear them as pocket handkerchiefs too) to bigger ones, cut similarly to a cummerbund that you can wear around your neck, like a neck-tie or casually tied on top of the trousers, instead of a belt. Add beautiful shawls to the mix, which you can wrap yourself in on a chilly summer evening-it reminds me of a paired down Pavlovoposadskye platki (shawls) but with a distinct European soul.

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One summer morning we finally met in a cafe close to Julie-Anne’s home. I saw a long-limbed young woman, in a slightly worn-in pink sweatshirt, with a flirty zip at the shoulder and dark shorts, her make-up-free face prettily flushed from a morning run and her hair tied in a high ponytail. There was a charming insouciance about her, with a calmly relaxed manner and a gentle smile playing on her lips. While she looked coolly French, there was warmth and a spark in her eyes and she really came alive when talking about her work and her children in equal measure.

Julie-Anne grew up in a French countryside, where she enjoyed the sense of freedom while toying with the idea of becoming a veterinarian, which later gave way to thoughts about journalism. In the end Julie-Anne followed her heart and studied for a Baccalaureate in Literature and Philosophy and then completed a Masters degree in Marketing & Communications at Emerson College in Boston. In France internships are an integral part of the educational process, so when an opportunity arose to do some fund-raising for

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